Nightly News   |  July 02, 2013

Arizona grieves for fallen firefighters

The Yarnell Hill fire, which took the lives of all but one member of the Granite Mountain Hotshot fire crew, is burning 85 miles outside of Phoenix and threatening hundreds of homes. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> now to the west, in arizona, where firefighters are struggling to gain control over that huge fire burning virtually unchecked. 85 miles outside of phoenix. even as they mourn the loss of 19 of their own, 19 of their best. the so-called yarnell hill fire took the lives of a highly skilled hotshot crew . today that same fire is threatening hundreds of homes. as investigators look at what went so wrong. miguel almaguer remains in arizona for us this evening.

>> reporter: the grief and heartbreak can be seen on every street corner in this small community. this fire has taken so much, tonight it's still on the move, as investigators work to determine what happened here.

>> these are among the final images taken sunday afternoon, the granite mountain hotshot team headed to battle a blaze from which they would not return.

>> they're the toughest of the tough. yarnell is in their backyard, they fought fire in this country for many years. for them to be overrun with fire is a shock to all of us. investigators will focus on the burn zone, a spot where 19 elite firefighters were overcome by flames with no place to escape. ralph lucas a super risouupervisor was on vacation when his team headed into the fire zone.

>> those guys are like brothers, family members. i know they did exactly what they were trained to do, utilized all the knowledge they had to make the right decisions.

>> julianne lost her husband, her four children lost their father. she shared his story on "today."

>> he was the most amazing man, best person i know. a contagious smile, a heart of gold . that's why he chose to do what he did, and work where he worked, because he wanted to protect the community he lived in and loved. and the 19 men, all of them, they really bonded together. and i want people to know that in our time of mourning, we want people to know they were heroes.

>> reporter: this is one of the last pictures julie ann received in her husband.

>> they loved what they did. they worked together, they lived together, they fought fires together and died together doing what they love.

>> reporter: wade parker was 22. his parents shared their loss today.

>> he was a wonderful son, and he's with jesus now.

>> reporter: in this tight knit community where they're just beginning to mourn the dead, the firefight must go on.

>> you have to get back on track, and they know that. to honor the firefighters, they're going to put this fire out.

>> reporter: on the fire line tonight, winds could reach 80 miles per hour, while fire crews are throwing everything they have at this blaze, we now know at least 50 homes have been destroyed and 200 are in jeopardy tonight.

>> miguel almaguer at the prescott memorial. thanks.